Is Chicago headed for a cruel, cruel summer?
After all the terrible spring weather and Monday's closing of North Avenue Beach on one of the warmest days so far, city-sponsored fireworks at this year's Taste of Chicago were canceled to save money. The display instead will be shifted to Navy Pier on July 2 and 4.
"We can't afford fireworks," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday. "We don't have the resources."
Chicagoans should be getting used to the city's belt tightening by now.
Two years ago, former Mayor Richard Daley dropped the 52-year-old summer tradition of illuminated boat floats known as Venetian Night due to cost cuts. Last year, Daley talked of privatizing Taste of Chicago, saying the city no longer can afford all the events at the annual smorgasbord.
Last year's $7 million festival losses eventually prompted Daley to hand over the Taste to the Chicago Park District. The Park District in return announced in February it would scale back emphasis on big musical acts, opting for local bands instead.
Fireworks were changed last year too. The city hoped to cut security costs with three synchronized displays at Montrose Harbor, 59th Street and Navy Pier. But crowds forced police to turn people away from Navy Pier for the first time.
The Viva Chicago, Country Music, Gospel and Celtic festivals are also all standing dangerously close to the edge of the budget. The Park District decided to pack all the fests into one-day events this year at Taste of Chicago instead of giving them a full weekend.
“Due to the national recession, all four of these events have been impacted by lower attendance, a lack of corporate sponsorship interest and declining sales,” said Dorothy Coyle, First Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in a press release. “In these tough economic times it doesn’t make sense for the City to continue funding these as stand-alone events.”
Does this mean Chicago is headed for a bummer summer?
Coyle assures there are plenty of free city events to go around.
There still will be a 15-minute fireworks display on July 2 and 4 at Navy Pier at 9 p.m., paid for by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. The Chicago Blues and Jazz festivals will continue as stand-alone events, as well as summer concerts in Millennium Park, Coyle said.
The Chicago Park District will also bring back the Grant Park Music Festival, Music Without Boarders world music series and Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays.